From a cozy evening by a roaring fireplace to a summer afternoon barbeque, controlled fires can play a role in many wonderful memories all year long. However, an uncontrolled fire can lead to the worst type of memory, the type that sparks years of nightmares. House fires can quickly destroy a family's possessions and can cause serious injuries, or even death. At The Pittman Firm, we can help Panama City fire injury victims understand their legal rights.
On Saturday evening at 7 P.M., the Panama City Fire Department received a report of smoke emanating from a single-family home. As detailed in The News Herald, a man escaped from the Kurze Avenue house through a side window while the fire burned.
Neighbors told fire officials that they suspected a woman may have been inside, but the responders were able to determine the home was empty after a thorough search. Luckily, while there was damage, the home was not completely destroyed, and the occupant suffered only the minor injuries associated with his window escape. Officials believe the fire started in the kitchen.
What happens when a house fire causes injury to the home's occupants or other individuals? Of course, medical treatment is always the top priority, but legal issues follow closely behind as victims look to be able to pay for treatment, recover lost wages, and confront future costs when an injury has a lasting impact. In the case of injuries to people who do not live in the home, homeowners' insurance is usually the main source of injury coverage. Homeowners' insurance is required by most mortgage companies and a wise investment for any owner.
As noted in a webpage presented by Florida's Department of Financial Services and Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater, a "homeowners' policy" is a package that covers both (a) the insured's property from being damaged or destroyed by an included cause and (b) the owner's personal liability in a suit by another person related to an included cause. This means the policy typically will cover injury to someone else in a home fire. As many of us know, insurance companies are often resistant when it comes to paying a claim. Both the victims and the homeowner should engage experienced counsel to ensure the policy pays out properly, covering the victim's injuries without additional liability falling on the homeowner.
As for injury to the homeowner and the family members also living in the home, a thorough investigation is key to determining potential sources of compensation. Of course, a similar investigation is also important with respect to injuries falling under homeowners' policies. A skilled attorney will interview witnesses, gather official reports, and work with a fire expert to determine the cause of the fire. This will allow the attorney to determine legal liability and the potential defendants in an injury lawsuit (or, if the worst happens, a wrongful death claim).
Where an item caused the fire, a product liability suit may be appropriate. Similarly, if faulty work or design sparked the blaze, there may be a claim against an electrician, builder, or a similar individual/company. Other possible defendants include the manufacturer/installer of a faulty smoke alarm, a utility company if oil or gas was a factor, and the manufacturer of flammable furniture or other items that allowed the fire to accelerate.
Home fires can be devastating. Determining liability for fire injuries requires the assistance of skilled legal counsel. Our Panama City fire injury attorney has the knowledge and experience necessary to help people injured in home fires in the Florida Panhandle. Call to arrange a free consultation.